We say this about every French town we visited, but Annecy is really one of the prettiest towns in France. It’s set on the edge of a bright blue lake, surrounded by mountains, and offers stunning views of the French Alps. It’s known as the “Venice of the Alps” thanks to its many winding canals, candy colored buildings, and cobbled streets. The medieval town is very small, clocking in at just over 25 square miles, but it’s packed full of charm and lots of things to do. A day or two is more than enough to explore all that Annecy has to offer and it is the perfect spot for a romantic getaway in France. Here’s a guide to Annecy, France, including how to get there, the best things to do in Annecy, which restaurants to eat at, and which hotels to stay at.
A Guide to the Best Things to do in the
Charming Town of Annecy, France
How to Get to Annecy:
Annecy is really easy to get to from Geneva or Lyon. If you happen to find yourself in either of these cities with an extra day, we highly recommend a visit to Annecy. We drove to Annecy from Lake Como, Italy and found it to be a beautiful drive. While we always prefer having our own car and driving, Annecy is also easily accessible via train and bus. Once you’re in Annecy, you don’t need a car as the small town is easily navigated by foot. We parked our car at one of the many public parking lots in the city when we arrived and walked everywhere for the rest of our stay.
Tip: Annecy has a very similar vibe to Colmar. If you’re not near Colmar, consider adding a visit to Annecy!
From Geneva, Switzerland: 40 minutes by car, 50 minutes by bus, 2-3 hours by train (direct train is not available). There are multiple buses and trains providing transport from Geneva – Annecy / Annecy – Geneva per day as many people commute from city to city. You will need your passport to get from Geneva to Annecy
Best Things to Do in Annecy
Annecy was not originally on our France itinerary, however after seeing posts from The Mindful Mermaid and Our Suitcase Adventures, we knew we needed to add it to our list. Since we had procrastinated on planning our France road trip before leaving on our trip, it was really easy to add this stop and well worth it. We only had 24 hours to spend in Annecy and we were able to squeeze in quite a bit. We didn’t make it through everything on our list as we visited in the late fall when daylight hours were short, but if you visit in the spring or summer you will be able to fit in much more. We would recommend staying anywhere from 1-3 days in Annecy, just depending what kind of pace you’d like to have. Here are some of the best things to do in Annecy:
1. Wander Vieille Ville (old town)
Spend a few hours wandering the whimsically colorful cobbled canals of Vieille Ville. We couldn’t get enough of this charming part of the town. It felt like walking through the pages of a storybook. Sit at one of the many cafes with a coffee and people watch. If this isn’t enough to make you fall in love with Annecy, I’m not sure any of our travel recommendations are for you, as this is exactly the type of town our travel dreams are made of.
2. Shop the markets
There are markets Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, but the best one is the large Sunday market lining old town’s colorful streets. We unfortunately missed it when we visited. If you’ve ever visited a French market, then you know it’s a feast for the sense. If not, then you should visit! Make sure to try the salami style sausages in flavors like mushroom, goat cheese, and hazeulnut, as well as reblochon, a creamy cheese. The last Saturday of the month, the market is taken over by antiques.
3. Kiss on Pont des Amours (Lover’s Bridge)
Rumor has it, that if you kiss on Pont des Amours or Lover’s Bridge, you’ll stay together forever. We tried it, of course, and we’ll let you know in a couple dozen years if it worked! 😉 Even if you don’t have anyone to kiss, it’s still worth a visit as the views of the lake and mountains from the bridge are stunning. Although Pont Des Amours is now a romantic (and touristic) destination, it was rumored to once be the spot to pick up “women of the night”.
4. Explore Annecy by boat
Lac d’Annecy (Lake Annecy) is the third largest lake in France and absolutely stunning. We didn’t have time to do this, but we would have liked to have rented one of the many paddleboats to take around the lake. You can also take a boat tour around the lake. It’s such a beautiful way to see Annecy and take in all the majestic views of the town and the snow peaked mountains. Lake Annecy is known to be one of the cleanest lakes in Europe and when the sun hits the crystal clear water, it shimmers like crazy.
5. Explore Annecy by bike
Alternatively, or in addition to by boat!, explore Annecy by bike. From March through October, you can rent bikes to explore the charming city and around the lake. I couldn’t get enough of photographing all the bikes I saw parked all along the town. There are many bike paths throughout the city. If you’re really ambitious, you can attempt to bike the entire 18 miles around Lake Annecy with stops along the way for snacks and cocktails at one of the many restaurants dotting the lakefront.
6. Check out the Palais de l’Isle
Palais de l’Isle is located right in the heart of Annecy’s old town and is the town’s most famous and photographed building. It was built back in the 12th century on a triangular island between two forks of the river. Although it looks like a mini castle, it has been used as a courthouse and a prison over the years. Today it’s home to a small museum, although we didn’t take a look inside. It’s gorgeous to view both day and night.
7. Be a kid again
When visiting such a charming and fairy tale like town, why not pretend to be a kid again? Stop by one of the many candy stores and satisfy your sweet tooth. Play with giant bubbles provided for a donation by Lake Annecy. Run, skip, twirl. Annecy is what dreams are made of. Let your inner child come out and play.
What and Where to Eat in Annecy:
By the time we got to Annecy, we already had several wonderful meals in France and our expectations were very high. The food in Annecy was not our favorite. It was a bit heavier and richer than other regions in France. In addition, there are several tourist spots that you’ll need to try to avoid. Here’s where (and what) we recommend eating.
Best Foods to Eat in Annecy:
- Raclette: a Swiss dish that consists of round cow’s milk cheese melted in front of an open fire. It’s often served with potatoes, dried meats, gherkins, and pickled onions. Such a cozy food to order when visiting in the fall and winter
- Tartiflette: a much-loved local dish made with potatoes, cheese, cream, onions and bacon
Where to Eat in Annecy:
- O Savoyard: This restaurant is incredibly touristy (and not the type of place we would typically recommend eating at), but it’s a perfect place to try the foods Annecy is known for like raclette and fondue! The inside is decorated so cute with traditional Swiss decor and the waiters are in traditional Swiss dress. Definitely sit inside and enjoy your fondue with a side of kitsch
- Les Caves Du Chateau: a locals spot! Very cozy atmosphere and perfect for wine and apps. It’s not a place you stumble upon very easily, so you’ll feel very in-the-know going here. It’s very close to Chateau d’Annecy, a medieval castle in town, so plan to stop by there before or after. We loved the veggie platter (assortiment vegetarien) and the butter! Random, I know, but SO good! PS. Use the bathroom elsewhere. If you’re picky about bathrooms like I am, this one is a no go
- Le Denti: we weren’t able to get a reservation, but we really wanted to eat here. Le Denti is a Michelin recommended resutraunt run by a young couple and very well priced for a nice dinner. It’s just outside the busy part of the city. Make reservations if you can and let us know how it is!
- Sapaudia: if you’re having dinner in old town and want somewhere lower budget or you couldn’t get reservations at one of the best dining spots in the city, check out Sapaudia. It was filled with locals and has great pizza and pasta. The service was amazing, you feel like you belong the second you walk in. It’s not the best food we ever had, but great for the price and way better than the tourist traps nearby
- Rose Des Neiges: the cutest pink tea room! All the desserts we tried were so good, but you MUST try the Matcha mango passionfruit cake. SOOOO good!
Where To Stay in Annecy:
Since Annecy is so small, almost any where you stay will be of walking distance to the hot spots. We stayed HERE and were really happy with it. The hotel was well priced and close to everywhere we wanted to go with a very clean and spacious room. Here are some other recs:
4 Star: L’Impérial Palace – beachfront near Annecy Castle and STUNNING
5 Star: Les loges Annecy Vieille ville – the only 5 star actually located in Annecy and can sometimes be found for under $350/night
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